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Moral Education

Traditions and the law


Learner, let me welcome you to the lesson on Tradions and Law. In this lesson you will learn about the local and national traditions in Botswana. Tradition is explained as an acceptable way of doing things. Here we will look at the traditions which were followed by different 'merafe' or ethnic groups of people in Botswana and the traditions that still exist today. Traditions are an important part of our lives sometimes way we live is guided by the traditions that we follow.

Traditions are often linked to morality. Do you know what this means? Think about it before proceeding with the lesson. Morality refers to a set of ideas of what is right and what is wrong in human conduct. In this lesson we will also discuss the important roles of traditions in the lives of Batswana both in the past and present. I hope you are aware of the fact that every society has its own rules and laws, as such we will go on to look at the effect of rules and laws on human behaviour.

Like traditions, the law is also related to morality because it is based on moral principles.

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By the end of this lesson you should be able to
  • Explain the word “tradition”
  • Give examples of local and national traditions
  • Explain the role of tradition both now and in the past
  • Identify the rules and laws of society
  • Analyse the role of rules and laws in governing human behaviour
  • Discuss how changes in moral perception can affect the law

Lesson Contents List

The rules and laws of society
How changes in moral perception can affect the law
Self-assessment exercise 1


I hope you are familiar with the word ‘tradition’ as you follow some traditions. Can you tell me what it means? Think about this and write your ideas below. Once you are done read on for the suggested feedback. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

The word tradition means the passing of beliefs, customs, habits, etc. from one generation to another. In other words, tradition refers to ways in which people live. This way of life is passed from one generation to another either by word of mouth (orally) or by being written down. Many Batswana traditions are oral. Tradition is concerned with the normal, acceptable and customary way of doing things. It is the part of the culture of a group of people and is often linked to morality.

Local and National Traditions

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Spend 2 minutes on this activity

Think of the traditions which your community followed in the past and are following at present and write them down on the space provided below.

  • My tradition in the past
  • My tradition at present

Suggested feedback to activity 1

I believe you have written the answers in the space provided. Your answer may be right because you heard of the traditions in the past from your parents and grand parents and are aware of the traditions that you follow at present in your family and community.

Next let us look at the traditions which Botswana has been following for many years. We will look at local traditions first.

Local Traditions

Local traditions refer to the culture of a small group of people who live in the same place like a family or an ethnic group. Some of the important local traditions include the following;

  • Respect

Respect is when one refrains from doing anything that may offend someone. In other words one has high regard towards a person. For example, it is tradition that young people should greet their elders. They should also help them in carrying out some duties.

  • Totems

totem is an animal which symbolizes a group or a morafe in Botswana. It is tradition for Batswana not to eat animals that symbolize their ethnic group and hold them at high esteem. For example, elephant is a totem for some groups amongst Babirwa, crocodile is sacred amongst Bakwene. As such its their totem. Bangwato and Batawana has the duiker (phuti)as their totem. Other groups have a whole range of sacred animals as their totems.

  • Taboos

Traditionally a taboo was something that was forbidden i.e. something that people were not allowed to do, and in most cases because they do not follow the customary way of life. Below are examples of taboos.

  • In Setswana culture it was a taboo for people who went for Bogwera and Bojale to tell those who had not gone there about what had transpired at the initiation schools. This was because the information was considered sacred.
  • It was also a taboo to touch the tail of a dog because there was a belief that people who do so would go blind. However, this was meant to protect children from being bitten by the dogs.

As you can see from above examples, taboos were meant to safeguard the societal secrets as well as to protect people from danger.

  • Riddles

Riddles are word problems or puzzles meant to test a person’s intelligence. They are educational and help people to think quickly.

Examples of riddles are as follows; • Ka betsa mpipi, mpipi a tlhoka lebadi. Answer : Metsi (water) (from Mangope et al 2001) • Why do cows wear bells round their neck? • “I am white all over, I am black all over, and I am read all over”. Answer: Newspaper.

  • Proverbs

Proverbs are short well known sayings stating a general truth. Proverbs can be related to one’s culture, but can also be universal at the same time. This means that although proverbs can be of a particular culture, when we study them we find that they are almost similar and related to those of other cultures. Examples of such proverbs are discussed below.

• All that glitters is not gold • When you are in Rome, do as the Romans do • Empty vessels make the most noise.

National Traditions
  • The national flag

The national flag is given much respect in Botswana because it is a symbol of authority and of national unity. On a flag we find elements such as the blue colour which symbolize water, and the black and white colours which symbolize equality and unity between people of all races in Botswana.

  • The constitution

The constitution includes the rights and freedoms which Batswana are entitled to. It also states different functions of the state such as the executive, parliament (legislative) and the judiciary.

National principles
National principles are the nation’s ambitions and goals. They are established to improve the living conditions of the people in the country. The national principles are: • Democracy • Unity • Development • Self-reliance

As you can see from above examples, taboos were meant to safeguard the societal secrets as well as to protect people from danger.

The Role of Tradition in Society

Now that you know what traditions are, can you think of the role they play in people’s lives? Think hard about this and proceed with the lesson.

We have learnt what tradition is, as well as its examples which included both the local and national ones. I hope you have realized that tradition plays an important role in our lives and it teaches us how to live well in both the family and society. From the examples of local traditions you have learnt that the people in the past were not allowed to do certain things according to the beliefs of the tradition of a community. Ask your parents or grandparents the activities that were considered taboos and write them on a piece of paper. Once this is done discuss them with your tutor and other learners during a tutorial session at the study centre.

Before we continue, let us have an activity quickly so as to check whether you understood what we have just discussed.

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Activity 2

Spend no more than 5 minutes on this activity.

Write down some examples of riddles and proverbs from sources such as books and friends. Please do not use those already discussed in the lesson. You can later discuss these with other learners and tutor at the study centre during a tutorial session

The rules and laws of the society

In the previous unit on ‘Citizenship’ we studied about the responsibilities of a citizen which we said could be legal, economic and moral. Do you think we need rules and laws for a person to act responsibly or to have peace and harmony in our society? Think about this before proceeding on with the lesson.

If you are not sure of what to think go back to the lesson on ‘Peace and harmony in society’ and remind yourself.

Now let us study more about rules and laws.

Rule means an order, law or custom which guides or controls the behaviour of people. Rules are statements of what we are expected to do and not to do in particular circumstances.

Examples of rules include the following;

  • Do not smoke in public
  • Do not litter
  • Do not come to school late
  • Do not use abusive language
  • Do not drink and drive.

Laws are written legal rules made by authority or custom in order to control people’s behaviour in the society.

Examples of laws include the following;

  • Do not commit murder
  • Do not give false information
  • Do not commit abortion
  • Do not obstruct justice in any way
  • Do not take the property of others without their consent.

Now you can think of some other examples of rules and laws of society in which you live in and write them down. Then discuss them with your tutor at the study centre during a tutorial session.


  • In this lesson we have learnt that tradition plays an important role in governing human behaviour because it is concerned with certain ways of doing things.
  • Local and national traditions in Botswana help people work for common goals and create unity and cooperation among them.
  • Riddles are an important part of Setswana tradition because they test one’s thinking ability and intelligence, and also teach moral lessons. Proverbs help people use their reasoning power in making moral decisions.
  • National traditions such as national flag, national anthem and national principles encourage peace and harmony in the society, reflect the values of life and strengthen unity among people.
  • We have also learnt that the law is related to morality because it is based on certain moral principles. For instance, what is wrong today may not be wrong tomorrow and things that are legally wrong may not always be morally wrong! This shows that perceptions of right and wrong influence the law. If people’s way of thinking about certain moral issues changes, the law may also change in some way as a result.

Now try this exercise to check your level of understanding of this lesson. Once you are done check for the suggested feedback at the end of this unit and see how you performed.

Self Assessment Exercise

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Self Assessment Exercise

You are advised to spend no more than 30 minutes on this exercise. Attempt all questions by writing the answers in the spaces provided.

Section A [20 marks]

Short answer questions Answer all questions.

1. Briefly explain the following terms;

a. Tradition [2 marks]
b. Taboos [2 marks]
c. Riddles [2 marks]
d. Rules [2 marks]
e. Laws [2 marks]

2. List the national principles of Botswana and explain their roles. [4 marks] 3. Give any two examples of rules. [2 marks] 4. Give any two examples of laws. [2 marks] 5. State any two reasons why the national anthem is important. [2 marks]

Section B - [30 marks]

Essay Questions Each question carries 15 marks

6. Briefly explain the role of the following traditions both now and in the past. Please note that similar roles of different traditions should not be repeated.

a. Totems [3 marks]
b. Taboos [3 marks]
c. Proverbs [3 marks]
d. National flag [3 marks]
e. National Constitution [3 marks]
7. a. Analyse the role of rules and laws in governing human behaviour. [6 marks] b. Discuss how changes in moral perceptions can affect the law. [8 marks]

[Total marks 50]

Your score               		Total
Section A	---------------		20
Section B	-----------------	30
Total 		-----------------	50
Percentage 	---------------		100


Amendment : Change, alteration or modification
Anthem : National hymn
Elements : Basics, fundamentals
Ethnic groups: Tribal or cultural groups
Forbidden : Not allowed, prohibited
Identity : Individuality
Legal : Lawful
Parliament : Legislative or law making body
Penal Code : Set of laws of a country
Offence  : Crime
Safeguard : Protect
Symbol  : Sign
Symbolic : Representative